England (in the picture above), represents only one of the stops on both my physical and faith journeys in life. This last week, since hearing and studying about Abraham I have been thinking a lot about faith and what it means.
Dictionary.com gives results from 11 different dictionaries. Some of the entries have up to 9 different definitions of faith. The writer of Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) says: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Someone in our study asked where the idea of "blind faith" comes in. What a great question! I offered that I felt it comes from the secular world and that God does not expect a blind faith. In fact, the realization has come over me, that my faith truly is a gift from God. The longer I walk with Him, the more I trust that in spite of all I see around me, He is True. Trust is a VERY difficult thing for me. When you've been burnt a number of times, you don't tend to sidle up next to the fire! Where did this trust come from? Honestly, I do not believe it stems from any good or meritable trait within myself. I tend to be cynical and with a medical background and a love of research, I like proof or at least reasonable evidence. So this week I have been mentally tossing it around.
On Dictionary.com, I liked this portion from Easton's Bible dictionary 1897 (faith. (n.d.). Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary. Retrieved September 19, 2008, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/faith):
Faith is in general the persuasion of the mind that a certain statement is true (Phil. 1:27; 2 Thess. 2:13). Its primary idea is trust. A thing is true, and therefore worthy of trust. It admits of many degrees up to full assurance of faith, in accordance with the evidence on which it rests. Faith is the result of teaching (Rom. 10:14-17). Knowledge is an essential element in all faith, and is sometimes spoken of as an equivalent to faith (John 10:38; 1 John 2:3). Yet the two are distinguished in this respect, that faith includes in it assent, which is an act of the will in addition to the act of the understanding. Assent to the truth is of the essence of faith, and the ultimate ground on which our assent to any revealed truth rests is the veracity of God.
What I took from this, besides the fact that I am barely beginning to understand in some ways what I know and believe, is that knowing something is one thing, assenting or agreeing to this information is another. One could be the brightest individual in the world but not use that knowledge and information to better one's own life or the lives of others. Mensa is an organization for those whose IQ score lists in the top 2% of the population. I'm sure there are many worthy people belonging, but I have also heard of Hollywood members with messed up lives touting their Mensa membership. Intelligence, just like money, cannot give you everything. Sometimes it gives you nothing. Most of the efforts we add are like the building blocks of The Tower of Babel - they glorify ourselves and will be destroyed.
I am not a theologian. I've never been to seminary. I don't claim to have a corner market on Biblical knowledge and revelation. I just want to love Him more, better, fuller and grow! And I long to see other dear Sisters in the Lord, grow in their own faith and in their journey with knowing Him. It seems to me that what God is looking for, is not the "volunteer of the year" (though good works are a fruit of our faith and faith without works is dead - James 2:17), nor "Martha Perfect", but willing hearts. God wants people who want to. Please excuse my imperfect grammar. I can have all the knowledge and information in the world, but if I never do anything with that knowledge, it is useless. In other words, I can buy a ticket, but if I don't get on the bus, I'm not going anywhere.
The rest of this quote from the above mentioned 19th century source, takes a bit of thinking to wade through, but I believe it brings up some good points. (You could scroll down to the next black type if you aren't interested.)
Saving faith is a moral act, as it proceeds from a renewed will, and a renewed will is necessary to believing assent to the truth of God (1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:4). Faith, therefore, has its seat in the moral part of our nature fully as much as in the intellectual. The mind must first be enlightened by divine teaching (John 6:44; Acts 13:48; 2 Cor. 4:6; Eph. 1:17, 18) before it can discern the things of the Spirit. Faith is necessary to our salvation (Mark 16:16), not because there is any merit in it, but simply because it is the sinner's taking the place assigned him by God, his falling in with what God is doing. The warrant or ground of faith is the divine testimony, not the reasonableness of what God says, but the simple fact that he says it. Faith rests immediately on, "Thus saith the Lord." But in order to this faith the veracity, sincerity, and truth of God must be owned and appreciated, together with his unchangeableness. God's word encourages and emboldens the sinner personally to transact with Christ as God's gift, to close with him, embrace him, give himself to Christ, and take Christ as his. That word comes with power, for it is the word of God who has revealed himself in his works, and especially in the cross. God is to be believed for his word's sake, but also for his name's sake. Faith in Christ secures for the believer freedom from condemnation, or justification before God; a participation in the life that is in Christ, the divine life (John 14:19; Rom. 6:4-10; Eph. 4:15,16, etc.); "peace with God" (Rom. 5:1); and sanctification (Acts 26:18; Gal. 5:6; Acts 15:9). All who thus believe in Christ will certainly be saved (John 6:37, 40; 10:27, 28; Rom. 8:1). The faith=the gospel (Acts 6:7; Rom. 1:5; Gal. 1:23; 1 Tim. 3:9; Jude 1:3).
What I took from this, is that I need to have knowledge of who God is (I highly recommend doing a study, like Lord I Want To Know You. Understanding more of God's character increases your trust in Him to fulfill His promises to you.), but I also have to decide whether I will "sit" on this knowledge or do something about it.
For example, I knew about God from an early age. I believed the way a child believes and this belief was tested by fire. But, when I was 11, the Gospel was presented to me and for the first time in my life, the eyes of my heart were WIDE OPEN. I knew. I understood. Then I chose. Once I understood what I knew, I had no other option than to choose Him. I was compelled to move forward, I was compelled to choose baptism and there was no turning back. Please, I'm not bragging on myself. This was the work of the Holy Spirit coming to fruition in my heart. Romans promises that those He calls, will be justified. If anyone ever tells you that they did something to receive God's love or eternal salvation, then they are selling you a lie and do not know the truth of God, because all of our righteousness is as filthy rags to God. (Isaiah 64)
How do we know who God is? How do we take that next step? What do we do if we are "stuck"? If you are feeling "stuck" right now or just not able to even "feel" right now - please don't turn away. Please don't let the words of men, or for that matter, my words, turn you away. Being stuck is a part of a growth pattern. The key is not to stay stuck. We all go through spiritual dry periods, but we need to choose NOT to stay there. Many times this is easier said than done. I don't know about you, but when I don't "feel" like doing something, it is so hard to get it done... or even get it started.
I couldn't find the verse, but I remember reading that God KNOWS who we are and He is mindful of our frame, that we are but dust. That is to say, He made us (Psalm 139) and He understands how we work. He understands both our capabilities and our shortcomings. He will never ask me to do something I cannot. You wouldn't ask your vacuum cleaner to wash the dishes would you? He is mindful of how you are made and when you are weak, He is strong. Paul wasn't joking when the Holy Spirit inspired him to write, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13) Nor, when he wrote Philippians 1:6: "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." God keeps working on His UFOs (unfinished objects for you un-knitterly types!). He never abandons them! If you doubt His calling, His love for you, the gifts He has endowed you with, please read the first two chapters of Ephesians. Do you know He is describing you?
Get to know this God in His Word.
Get to know this God in the praises of His people.
Get to know this God in fellowshipping with His family.
Get to know this God in all He has created.
Get to know this God in conversation with Him.
You cannot shock God.
He will not plug His ears or turn His head.
You don't even have to explain yourself.
He even understands.
He loves us anyway.
When you can't feel Him there, that's when He is likely closest to you.
I couldn't find the reference, but I remember reading, underlined in red in my Grandma Hopkins' Bible, that He promises to be with us even to our old age and gray hairs, even to the end. She leaned on that promise every day. She knew He meant it. He means the same for you.
When you don't want to open the Bible,
When you don't want to pray,
When you don't want to sing,
When you don't want to fellowship,
When you don't want to talk,
When you don't want to think,
When you don't want to feel,
When you don't want to take another step,
When you don't want to wake up the next morning,
Ask Him to help you want to,
Ask Him to help you,
Ask Him to hold you,
Ask Him to strengthen you,
Ask Him to lead you,
Ask Him to guide you,
Ask Him to teach you,
Ask Him to show you,
Ask Him to tell you,
Ask Him to meet you where you are,
He will be there!
And sometimes we need to practice Psalm 46:10 - Be still and know that He is God!
The Psalmist writes over and over, that he called on God because he knew God would answer. Call on Him. He will answer. He is the answer.
When you are weak, He is strong. He will listen for your voice. He will answer.
When you fall, get up.
When you fall again, get up.
When your heart is bursting, get up.
When you can't get up, know He is holding you in His everlasting arms, that He is hiding you in the shadow of your wings.
Abraham had faith. God gave him the ticket. Abraham "got on the bus". God worked miracles in him.
Theresa had faith. God gave her the ticket. Theresa "got on the bus". Man! What a journey it has been. God worked miracles in her.
Are you holding a ticket? Do you need a ticket?
Ask for faith. Take the ticket. "Get on the bus." Don't let the enemy steal your joy. "Keep on keeping on." When you get to the desert, know that "this too shall pass."
If you are struggling, know that you are loved. If you would like me to pray for your faith journey, feel free to email me (address on upper right) so that it is private. I don't have all the answers, but I know He does. Just as you bless me with your encouragement when I am weak, sad and discouraged, I hope to bless you.
This study of Abraham has left me much to ponder. I want to know Him more and more and understand the mystery and riches He has given me. At this time I am thankful for the prompting our new sermon series and Bible study has given! And if you read this far, thank you. If you are feeling "spiritually up", pray for those who are feeling "spiritually down" or "stuck". The greatest gift we can give each other is prayer - lifting each other up to the Father!